Your Hearing Matters

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Home and family

Communication is two-way

Communication is two-way

People you live with or who visit regularly may have noticed your hearing loss before you did. Your hearing loss doesn’t only affect you – it’s a communication problem that can also affect the people around you.

Communication is two-way and, while you may become frustrated when it breaks down, those trying to talk to you will also be affected. They may have nagged you about getting your hearing checked, complained that the TV is too loud or become irritated because you didn’t hear them calling from another room or misunderstood what’s been said. You may have been accused of ‘domestic deafness’ or ‘selective hearing’– only hearing when you want to.

“I used to feel isolated in my own family. They seemed to talk a different language that I couldn’t follow quickly enough to join in, and I missed out on the jokes and backchat that I used to be part of.” - Frances

But as all of you go through the process of accepting that your hearing has changed there’s lots you can do that might improve matters and there’s plenty of help to support you and those you interact with regularly.

Talk to your nearest and dearest

"I always tell people of my situation which at least gives them and me a chance. After all, if I didn’t, how are they to know!” - Amanda

It might be that you’ve not yet had a hearing loss diagnosed. Talking to your friends and family might help you decide if you need to seek help, as they may have noticed things you haven’t. You shouldn’t feel that admitting to thinking that you have a hearing loss is going to change your relationship with them. By having a conversation, you can support each other, and learn together how best to communicate. Your family members could even access this course to learn more!

If you have already identified that you have a problem, talking to your family and friends openly about any difficulties your hearing loss is creating – for them as well as for you is really important.

There are various strategies you – and they – can adopt to ease communication in the home. Some simple things include:

  • Avoid trying to converse when you can’t see one another face-to-face. Everyone, whether they have hearing loss or not, gets numerous visual clues to what’s being said from facial expressions, lip movements and gestures. Remember - Trying to talk from another room is not helpful, even for people with perfect hearing!
  • Make sure there’s enough light for you to see the speaker’s face clearly.
  • Don’t try to converse against competing noise from household appliances.
  • If your hearing isn't the same in both ears, make sure you sit or stand in the best position for your better ear and explain to family and friends why, for example, you’d rather sit on the right than the left.
  • Suggest that others make sure they have your attention before they start talking to you and ask them to speak one at a time.
  • If you aren’t sure you have understood something, don’t bluff – ask them to clarify what they said by repeating it or saying it another way.
  • If necessary, ask people to slow down and speak more clearly or use shorter phrases. Ask people to speak more loudly if you need them to, but often clarity is more an issue than volume.
  • Making sure you can see a persons lips clearly is also very important. If the person your talking to has their hand near their face – you can ask them to move their hands away.

Everyone mishears conversation from time to time and typical responses include saying things like ‘What?’, ‘I’m sorry’, ‘Pardon’, ‘Huh’ or ‘I didn’t get that’. These responses will usually prompt the speaker to repeat themselves but if you have a hearing loss that alone may not help.

You can improve the response they give by being more specific about what you haven’t heard. So, saying for example, ‘What time are we going out?’ or ‘Who did you say was coming round?’ will usually get a clearer response giving only the information you missed than if you just say something general like ‘Pardon?’.

“My family were amazing and had the patience and understanding that I needed to help me and boost my rapidly disappearing self-esteem. This included accepting the fact that I needed the subtitles to watch TV whether they liked it or not and that if I didn’t answer them; it wasn’t because I was ignoring them! They learnt to get my attention before speaking and if I answered their question with what appeared to be a very stupid answer, they were aware there was a reason and rather than make a thing of it, they knew to simply ask again in a different way and not shout.” - Paul

Technology that can help

Technology that can help

Struggling to hear on the phone or turning up the TV to a level that others can’t tolerate, are often the first signs that hearing is a problem.

Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs) are technology items designed to help you hear or be alerted to sound in specific situations such as these. They will add extra amplification for you or signify that something needs your attention by a light or a vibration.

They work with or separately from hearing aids and can be invaluable in overcoming communication difficulties and reducing anxiety and other negative feelings around talking with people. There are various systems that use FM radio or infrared, apps that turn smartphones into ALDs, and induction, or hearing, loop systems.

Hearing loops send sound from a microphone or other sound source to suitable ALDs or hearing aids via a magnetic wireless signal. It is in public places that most people first encounter these, but you can install loops at home or even in your car.

If you are concerned about missing the doorbell, the phone ringing or an alarm going off, there are devices to help you. In addition to louder-than-usual ringers, they may also have flashing lights or vibrating pads to alert you.

You might have to buy equipment yourself, but some county councils and local authorities will provide some assistive technology through their social services’ sensory teams. It’s always worth checking what might be available before you spend your own money. This type of equipment is available from a range of suppliers including Action on Hearing Loss,Connevans or Sarabec

Your technology tips

“My TV listener sends the TV sound straight to my headphones which meant that I could enjoy the television once again and my wife didn’t have to endure the volume being too loud. It was a win-win situation!” - Paul


“When my hearing loss became moderate to severe, discovering the ‘personal listener’ was a life saver for me. It not only boosts sound during everyday conversation but enables me to hear much better at meetings and conferences. I don’t know what I’d do without it” - Amanda


“I am confident about using the phone again because I have a phone that streams the call directly to my hearing aids. I kept avoiding using my old phone because it was so embarrassing and upsetting asking people to repeat themselves over and over again. It also flashes when I have an incoming call so I don’t have to rely on hearing it ringing” – Sarah


“I have a vibrating pad under my mattress to alert me if the fire alarms go off and a vibrating alarm clock under my pillow to wake me up in the morning. Knowing that I am safe in the house and won’t be late for work ensures that I get a good night’s sleep!” - Jo

Your smartphone

Your smartphone

Modern mobile phones are among the easiest bits of kit to adapt for your hearing loss. You can adjust the volume, set them to vibrate when they ring, set the ringer to a tone that’s easier for you hear, use them with headphones to escape background noise, stream sound to your hearing aids via Bluetooth, and much more.

“I have an app on my iPhone that increases the volume and a Bluetooth device attached to it which streams the call to my hearing aids. I no longer feel anxious when this phone rings or have to hold the phone so tightly to my ear that my hand starts to ache.” - Roger

There are numerous hearing loss apps for mobiles, including some that turn speech into text, so you can read what was said even if you didn’t hear it clearly. There are apps that enhance hearing, equip your phone with various assistive devices, or help protect or test your hearing. There are also apps to educate you and others about the ears and hearing, apps to help you learn or interpret sign language, apps that allow you to wirelessly adjust hearing aids and many more.

With so many different options available you, there are so many ways to support your hearing, but it may take some trial and error to find the right combination.

Living well at work

It’s estimated that 4-5 million people with hearing loss in the UK are of working age. In the next module we look at how deal with hearing loss at work, your rights and the sorts of things your employer can do to help.

Content on HealthUnlocked does not replace the relationship between you and doctors or other healthcare professionals nor the advice you receive from them.

Never delay seeking advice or dialling emergency services because of something that you have read on HealthUnlocked.